I came back from the cafe the other day and Shira invited me to sit. We were at the top of the hill, at the first business you come to when leaving our guest house. I still wasn’t sure what this little cafe sold; drinks and chocolate bars, I don’t think there’s a menu, but Shira seems to be friendly with the owners. I didn’t really want anything but inside Across were three Israelis, one very pretty in turquoise, the others not so pretty. The owner placed a menu in front of me. We walked in and sat across from them. If we were going to sit here one of us should get something, I thought. I ordered a Coke.
I looked at the girls, who asked me to take photos of them. I noticed they were rolling a spliff. After I took photos on each of their cameras, the girl in turquoise lit the spliff and offered it to me. I had been feeling like smoking so I did. I leaned back one arm closer to them, my body facing the outside mountain, upon which I gazed lovingly, Shira to my right. I didn’t want to turn my back on the pretty girl, especially because we were talking a little, nor did I want to turn my back on Shira, so I tried to divide my energy between the two.
She and I would look at each other, smiling, bashful, and she’d raise her eyebrows and smile even harder. She had a round face with deeply tanned skin, dark hair and eyes and a mouth tending to pout. She wore a decoration on her head, with a turquoise that hung halfway down her forehead. Her name was Coral. What a beautiful name for a beautiful girl! How could I turn my back on her? So I faced the middle, reaching back or leaning forward. When our conversation died down, Shira and I started talking. He told me that since he’s married, he’s like a caged tiger. I laughed uncontrollably. Meanwhile a group of Israeli men showed up. A Sephardic Jew started talking to me about New York. With so many people around, my conversation with the turquoise girl died. I asked Shira if he wanted to leave. When we stood I avoided eye contact with the turquoise girl. I could feel her eyes on my face as I put on my shoes. She wanted to say goodbye. But I didn’t turn around until I was walking out. I looked in as she leaned forward, raising her hand in a wave. I smiled and waved back.
I kept thinking about how I couldn’t stop smiling at Coral in the cafe, and everytime she smiled back I’d smile harder, and then she’d smile even harder. I kept seeing her around town and each time I’d wave, she’d smile in surprise and wave back.
Yesterday when I was at Tom Yam Tai, I looked up from my blogging, trying to find the right words, and from my pillowed seat, I could see her looking out at the vista from Om Star. She was wearing violet pants, and a white tank that made her look even more tanned. I tried making eye contact with her but she was too far away. She probably didn’t even realize I was watching her.
I left, stepping down the concrete steps cautiously, in between still trying to look at her. I walked down to my veranda, dropped my computer on my bed and came back out to read. I sat in my chair. I opened the book. I read a page, but those violet pants kept coming into my mind. Why did I feel this way? It didn’t matter. She’s Israeli, she probably has a boyfriend. I had started a new chapter. I read a page but I couldn’t concentrate. Her image was engrained into my memory, how she was working on something, knitting maybe. How her tan skin made the white tank glow. I couldn’t focus on this book. I had to tell her how I felt. I would say, ever since I first saw you I’ve loved you. Your energy, cool and calm, made me smile so hard that every time I see you, I can’t stop thinking about you. I know you may think I’m crazy, but I feel an incredible draw to you, both physically, mentally, and emotionally. I want to unite my body with yours in order to further explore this feeling, this insatiable bond-lust. Do you want to come to my room and have sex? This was the kind of thing that would grab her attention. With this I’d be able to surprise her, and overcome any reluctance she may have with my eloquence. I was going to try it. It was all I could do to be happy. Sure, I’d tried this before, and usually it doesn’t work. But it didn’t matter. It could work. I could do it and it could work.
To test my theory, I went to Shira and Junko. Shira invited me in. He lay on the bed with his legs hanging off the side of it while Junko sat at the desk eating dry corn pops. I told them my plan. Shira said, “Don’t ask her to sleep with you.”
Junko said, “How long did it take you to make love with your ex-girlfriend?” Shira had dated an Israeli. “One week,” he said. “But Israeli girls aren’t easy. Don’t ask her to sleep with you. Trust me. I can’t believe I got one. And I tried. He looked at me sidelong, over his large aquiline nose.
“Junko, what do you think?”
“Junko’s going to say do it, she’s easy.”
“Yeah. I’m easy. Japanese girls are easy.”
“Okay, I’m going to do it. I should go. She might have left.”
“Yeah, you don’t want to miss your chance,” he said.
I walked out the door and to Om Star. She was still there. Of course she was still there. I vacillated– should I walk in and talk to her? All of her friends are there. But if you don’t, everytime you see her you’re going to regret it. I walked past the fruit stand. A mother held a bunch of bananas in one hand and a baby in another. I walked into Om Star. I watched her. I pretended to look at the ads on the billboard for ayurverdic massages, meditation and astrology. One of the waiters came over to me. “I’m just…thinking.” He nodded. Her two friends were there, and a red-headed girl was too. Just do it. You’ve come so far. I looked over. I saw one of the girls and waved. She waved back. Coral hadn’t seen. I walked over to Coral as she turned around to see who was coming.
“Coral, hey. What are you doing?”
“Hey!” She held up her knitting, smiling.
I was smiling too. Uncontrollably.
“You’re so funny,” I said, laughing.
The girl next to her with curly hair, acne around her mouth and a big nose said, “You are funny.” She remembered me and was smiling too.
Coral said, “You have a baby face.”
I laughed and agreed. “Hey, I wanted to tell you, that when I saw you the other day I couldn’t stop smiling. You have such a good energy. You’re my favorite. I’m sure you have a boyfriend–”
“–but I just wanted to tell you that you’re a lot of fun.”
“Ahh, thank you. It makes me feel good to hear you say that,” she said in her throaty accent. The other girls were listening but I didn’t care. She passed me a spliff and invited me to sit. I did, hitting it and laughing. Terrific. Now I was high. The waiter placed a menu in front of me. I decided, like last time, I’d order a Coke. I stared out at the tree in front of me. She passed it to me again.
“Thanks.” I took two little hits and passed it back to her. She smiled, rose her eyebrows, and bit her lip. Her nipple was hard through her white tank top. I couldn’t be sure if she had made it hard on purpose.
“So what are you making?”
“It is a sock.”
“Ahh.” I nodded, looking out at the mountain. Pretty big wet blanket that she has a boyfriend. Coral’s voice isn’t so hot. In fact, it’s rather unattractive. So throaty. I wonder if it’s because she smokes. Her friend with the curly hair was asking the waiter about the music. He was standing next to her, telling her the name of the artist. She was saying she wants the CD. He told her to wait a minute. I looked down, at the mules carrying loads up the gravel path. The rest of Coral is very fine, though. I should keep talking to her. Her boyfriend’s not here. I can ask her anything I want. I’ve already let the cat out of the bag. She knows I like her. And she’s still smiling. I can say anything I want.
“Hey Coral,” I drew her name out, the Israeli way, pronouncing the ‘r’ almost like a ‘d’. “How come you’re so easygoing?” She cocked her head and shook it; she didn’t understand. “How come you smile so much?”
“Because I am proud,” she held up the sock she was knitting, which was just three fingers wide and maybe six inches long. “And I am having good time. Today is my first day.”
I complimented her, admiring her knitting skill. We laughed. I looked again out at the mountain in the afternoon sun. It was shady here in Om Star. The restaurant was perched maybe thirty feet high from the concrete path. I took a sip of my Coke, setting it on the tablecloth on the wicker table that separated me from her. The curly-haired girl was telling the waiter to repeat the same track. Coral protested. The curly girl was trying to act as ringleader since I had clearly shown my taste for Coral. I made eyes at the curly girl to appease her and make her feel like I wasn’t isolating her and the other girls in favor of their friend. I shook my head at her with my mouth open in a smile. “I’m like this all the time,” she said to me.
“I can tell,” I said in jest. I looked back out at the mountain, then at the flies that were on the straw I had removed from my Coke bottle. I could see their suckers. There are so many flies in India, I was starting to learn the anatomy of a fly. I mean, I knew flies have suckers. But most of the time you can’t see them. I could probably draw a fly pretty accurately, I thought. They are gross. And in so many different sizes. On the yellow plastic straw there were two smaller ones, babies, and an adult male. I couldn’t see its genitalia, (I’m not that knowledgeable about a fly’s anatomy) it just looked so big that it had to be. Enough of these flies, I thought. You’re here next to the girl you love. I looked at the brown-crystal and silver necklace hanging down her shirt, resting in her slight cleavage. Talk to her.
“Hey. Where is your family from?”
“Israel,” she said, with the vain indifference of an Israeli, and only the hint of a smile.
“But where are your parents from?”
“Isray-el!” she laughed.
“Really? Wow! How long have they lived there?”
“Ehh, fifty?” She turned to her friend, “Mahazekah?” The curly-haired girl said, “Fifty.” She turned back to me and nodded slowly, “Fifty.” I laughed incredulously. She laughed with me, “They were born there.”
“Wow!” I said, my enthusiasm real, “Where are your grandparents from?”
“Ehh, I have four.” I nodded for her to go on. “Poland. And Romania. Spain. And Brazil.” That’s why she’s so beautiful.
“Nice! Mine are from Ireland, two are from Ireland. One is Dutch. And the other is Austro– Austria and Russia.”
She nodded and I noticed the light smile-wrinkles around her eyes. “You know the Holocaust?” she said.
“Of course I know–” I laughed, then realized it was inappropriate. “Yes, I know the Holocaust.”
“My ehh,” she turned to the curly haired girl and said something, then back to me. “Grandfather,” she went on slowly. “He met my grandmother…”
“Your grandfather lived through the Holocaust?”
“Yes, his whole family died–”
“Yes but we get ehh,” she turned to her friend and asked for the word she was looking for, then back to me. “Revenge.” She paused, letting this sink in on me. “Because we get to be in India. And to smile.” And again, I felt a wave of love for this girl. I looked at the tree in front of me, its leaves blowing slightly, its veiny bark. I really had to pee. I was satisfied with how we had been talking together. And why hold it if you have to go?
I walked downstairs to the smelly Indian style toilet, which I wasn’t sure belonged to Om Star, nor was I sure of Om Star’s relation to the guest house this bathroom probably did belong too, but the bathroom was on a path, so whatever. I walked back up the stairs confidently, to the gaze of the Israeli girls, who turned in their chairs. They were probably wondering where I went, I realized. They were probably talking about me. I sat comfortably and waited for the fluster my reappearance had caused to settle.
“So what will you do when you get back to Israel?”
“This question makes me afraid,” she said, struggling with her knitting.
“Sorry, you don’t have to answer it if you don’t want to.” I said that very fast, I thought, watching her eyes follow my lips. I hoped she could understand.
“No, it’s okay. I want to work with ehh– autistic kids?”
“Cool. My cousin is autistic. She used to be very,” I pulled back, “but she’s good. Now you can hug her.”
“Ahh.” I looked out. Man how great would it be to have her working with me if I were autistic. I laughed at the absurdity of my switching places with an autistic child, to feel Coral’s touch every day, and for reassurance, to learn the safety of another human’s glance, to look into her eyes. Coral was concentrating on her knitting.
“Sorry. I’m not laughing at you, I was just thinking–”
“I didn’t see you laughing.” She stopped, but seeing that I was going to admit something, went on, “But what were you thinking?” She turned in her chair so her right shoulder was closer to me.
“I uh, I was just thinking that you would be very good at that and I’m sure the kids you will be working with will like you, and I was thinking what it would be like if I were autistic and you were helping me want to touch people and look them in the eyes. I think it would be very easy.”
“Thank you.” I took the last sip of my Coke. My drink’s gone. I should go. We’ve had a nice conversation. There’s more to talk about, sure, but save it for later. I’ll see her again. And if I leave unexpectedly, it’ll make her want me more. I gave one last look out to the mountain and turned to her.
“I’m gonna jet. It was great talking with you. I’m sure I’ll see you around.”
“Oh, okay. Bye.”
I stood and was gone, like that. I felt good. I did what I had wanted to and got to talk to her. There was a black cat on a step far enough away from the restaurant so that if she turned around to see if I was there she would not see me. I stopped to pet the cat. It was slender, with single gray hairs scattered through its black coat. A dog was barking. I saw Shira and Junko down the steps on the large patio. The barking dog was sitting next to Shira. I realized the dog hates the cat I was touching. I walked to my friends. I could see they were excited to hear the results of my success. I told them what I had said, but I didn’t elaborate. I couldn’t. I was too happy. I just wanted to live in the midst of my happiness. I told them I was going to get some gum, walked downstairs, and for the first time in at least a week, picked up my harmonica and played it well, with my eyes closed, as if knowing my new melody all along.